The meaning of “radical”

Within days of her dubious appointment as Britain’s Prime Minister in September 2022 Liz Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng produced a budget-that-wasn’t-a-budget — which was widely condemned by experts the world over, and by people-at-large. Ah, she said, but we are merely being “radical” – which is necessary to get us out of the economic crisis (which she blamed entirely on Covid and Putin’s war-that-isn’t-a-war in Ukraine). 

Clearly, though, she and her allegedly intelligent chancellor don’t know what “radical” means. For they were and are merely applying old and largely discredited ideas in more extreme form: those of neoliberalism and in particular of “trickle-down” economics.

For “radical” does not mean “extreme”. It means getting down to the roots. A truly radical government – the kind that we really do need – would be questioning the whole basis of the economy: the logic and morality of neoliberalism — and indeed the logic and morality of capitalism, which gave rise to neoliberalism; whether it is sensible to pursue the strategy to which Kwasi and Liz claim to be “100 per cent committed” – that of perpetual economic growth; what in reality is the relationship if any between the increase in material wealth (“growth”) and wellbeing; whether and to what extent money can or should be taken as the metric of value; and whether, as we are expected to do now, we should really gear our lives to it.

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